The Ministry of the Environment will begin seeking public input next month on proposals for an enhanced system of marine parks.
The Department of the Environment will hold public meetings in each district in September as part of the public consultation process, which will end on Dec. 4, the ministry announced Wednesday.
Since protected marine parks were established in Cayman in 1986, threats to marine life have increased due to population growth, coastal development, tourism, overfishing, climate change and invasive species such as lionfish. The parks are areas of the sea and coastline where wildlife is protected from destruction caused by human activities like water sports and fishing.
“We need to do more,” Environment Minister Wayne Panton said during a press conference Wednesday. “We’ve slowed the decline of our environment, but we need to get to a point where it is more sustainable. We’ve done a fantastic job of protecting the environment, but we have to do more yet to ensure that it is there for future generations.”
According to Gina Ebanks-Petrie, director of the Department of Environment, the marine parks proposal is essentially the same as what was taken to the public in 2012. Slight changes reflect the public input that was received at that time. The initiative was sidelined until now to reflect the National Conservation Law, which was passed in Dec. 2013.
Included in the proposal is a plan to increase “no-take zones,” where all fishing is banned, including at shore and at the drop-off.
Ms. Ebanks-Petrie said that while the perception might be that the department is taking something away from fishermen in establishing “no-take zones,” such zones “actually benefit fisherman by ensuring that there are viable populations of fish that can spill over into open areas.”
She said if they do not put the no-take zones in place, there will not be enough fish, coral reefs will suffer, and as a result, the diving industry would also suffer.
She said the zones would also make legislation against illegal fishing easier to enforce, as it will be more obvious when someone is breaking the law.
To view maps of the proposed marine parks, visit www.doe.ky/marine/marine-parks-review.